Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cooking With Carmen: Breakfast Cookies

I love cookies.
I love to eat them, bake them, give them away.
Recently I have been searching the blogosphere for a yummy breakfast cookie, because as a "mom on the go" I sometimes have to have something I can just grab. Or something I can shove at the kids to have on the Subway as a snack or whatever. They seem to be hungry all the time. Or hungry at the most inconvenient times. Am I right mom's out there!? As much as I feel doughnuts, cereal bars, and the ever present goldfish are "grab and go" foods.... I would like for what I shove in my mouth to occasionally have some nutritional value.
Well. Most of the time anyway. Some days only a doughnut will do.

Whatever it is that I'm eating it's gotta taste good. Not like a mouthful of sand. I'll warn you now. I am not taking the butter out of the recipe. #Ibelieveinbutter. With cookies it's very difficult to find a butter replacement, and after some research I have concluded that it's the best fat to use for the job.
Disclaimer. These cookies are not:
Gluten free. 
Egg free.
Sugar free, or
Oh Please Paleo. I'm not going to down to China Town to get crickets for m'cookies. 
I suppose you could try and make them any of those things above, but there are plenty of recipes on Pinterest to satisfy your (god forbid) paleo needs. What I found difficult to fufill was just a regular hearty breakfast type cookie. No tricks. Something that will stick with you through the morning.
Lower sugar is FINE. These don't have tons of sugar. You are welcome to try and cut it more, but be warned that sugar is important to the chemistry of a cookie.You have to be careful. Be wary of sugar free. It makes me skeptical of what actually is replacing the sugar. With these it's not really something to get hung up on however. I find with these I don't need a second breakfast when I get to work!!

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup unbleached AP flour
3 cups whole oats (or quick oats)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoon flax meal
1 ½ tablespoon wheat germ
½ cup flaked coconut (I like sweetened, but you can use unsweetened)
½ cup chopped and toasted almonds
½ cup chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts
¾ cup chocolate chips (if you don’t need a cocoa kick in the morning leave them out)
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
2 eggs
¼ honey or agave
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy.
Add eggs and sugars. Beat well.
Combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.
Add flours to mixing bowl. Mix well.
Add oats, nuts, and coconut mix well.
Add by hand chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Using a medium or large scoop drop dough and flatten slightly onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 min. till golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly covered.
Optional: ½ cup raisins, dried cherries chopped, or dried cranberries in place of chocolate chips.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wholesomely Retro

You can choose you're own terminology.
I like the retro term myself.
Wholesome Retro was how a friend described the environment Michael and I are raising our children in. I never thought about it that way, that we were somehow retro? I just know when I was a kid, my mom made cookies and bread on the regular, and we always had dinner together. My dad worked nights for most of my childhood, so usually it was just me, my mom, brother and sister at the table, but it was at a table and not in front of the TV.
And she cooked the dinner.
From scratch.
Those cookies and bread were from scratch too.
No Uncle Ben's (too expensive.)
No Pillsbury slice and bake (too expensive, and not really tasty.)
The only take out we had was an occasional bucket of chicken, and Rubino's pizza on Friday nights.
That's what I do too. Maybe more intensely than my mom, because I am me. But from scratch is my way to go. I have tricks and short cuts of course, and it's taken me years to figure out the best way to make a tiny New York kitchen work to my advantage. It was only a year ago that we renovated and made our kitchen the Shangri-La it is today. A dishwasher, a full sized stove, a big fridge with a bottom freezer, and CABINETS! My point is, is that it has always felt important to cook for myself, my husband and now my children. I figured out how to cook for one, then added on.

When I moved to New York it was out of necessity to figure out the mysteries of the kitchen once and for all, I was poor and it was cheeper and better for me than eating take out. I had spent years bopping around the country working at theaters, and not having my own kitchen, before that in an unhappy marriage where I was berated about my cooking because it wasn't as good as my mothers.

At least I tried. The only way to become good at something is to practice. So once I was in a place long enough to really really practice that's what I did. What I do.

A year ago I gave myself a cooking challenge. Maybe it was part of the nesting that occurs when you are waiting for the birth of a child. I decided a month before our son Noah was born that we were going to stop buying bread and I was going to bake bread for us. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. We're busy. Sometimes we're really really busy.  What about the summer? When it's 90 degrees. What then.
Well. It's a little over a year later, and I did it.
There were a few times over the summer where we bought bakery bread, and we also buy the occasional hamburger potato bun. The toast and sandwiches we have consumed over the last year have primarily been bread that I have made. I have to thank the woman who writes the blog www.butterpies.com because that blog got me started. She had a recipe for a fast crusty loaf that helped me get over the hump, and the recipe through all of my revisions and add ons still is one that I use primarily.  I found the blog one night when Michael and I were having soup for dinner and craving some fresh bread. An hour later we had what we wanted.

Yesterday I used a new recipe. I happened to look at the back of the Gold Metal Flour bag and it had a recipe for honey whole wheat bread. That's basically what I make anyway, but this had a few extra steps, a longer rise and looked interesting. It was spectacular. The extra steps were worth it, and developed the gluten in a way that made a nice tall loaf that didn't collapse when I put it in the oven. I tweeted about it, and it tickled me that Gold Metal Flour retweeted my picture, and tweeted me back saying I was on the right track with my dough.

This year my next cooking adventure is launching Harlem Souper Heroes
But I'm going to continue to bake our bread. My experiment has become our life style and has changed us for the better.

Call me a throw back, call me retro, but the food revolution is just beginning, and it's bringing us back to a time where people knew where their food was grown, harvested, or cared for. For me food is about balance. If our diet is balanced we will maintain a healthy weight, and feel good. It's not about fat or skinny, it's about healthy and feeling good and what that means for you and your body. I want my children to grow up with a healthy relationship with food. I want them to enjoy what they eat, and know how to feed themselves what's good for them.
So we are a wholesomely retro household. Where there will be cookies in the cookie jar, pizza on Friday nights, and fresh bread every week.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Great Drama of the Kitchen

A few years ago I took a pastry class.
Not like pie crust.
Like Pastry Pastry.
Chou, Puffed, and Croissant. 
I even blogged about it. 
I had always planned to try out what I learned that day, but until the other day never had the courage. I was filled with excuses as to why I didn't.
Our apartment was too hot to make the dough.
I would never have the time.
I thought it would take at least two days to complete all of the turns and keep everything chilled.
We would have to open windows in the winter. 
Our crazy chaotic hole of a kitchen.
That was all SO 2012.
We've since renovated the hole.
And after my year long bread project I feel more comfortable with yeast.
So. Instead of unearthing my photo copies of recipes from the Sur La Table cooking class. I turned to my old reliable cookbook for all things bread.
The Joy of Cooking.
I used to use my mothers edition which was given to my parents as a wedding gift in 1970.
Then Michael bought me my own. I have notes in the margins.We use it for muffins, pancakes, biscuits, scones, cornbread, duch babies, the list goes on.
Last night I decided after reading through the entire bread section that I would make danishes for breakfast. Somehow looking at the croissant recipe made me quake in my slippers. As it turns out, the danish recipe is almost identical, the shapes are different, croissant dough has a extra stick of butter, and more flour, and a bit less sugar, but the process is the same.

 After incorporating my butter square and doing at least four turns. I rolled out half of the dough and decided that strawberry filled pinwheels would be what I would try first. I cut and pinched and left them in the fridge over night.
Noah woke up at 5:30am and I pulled them out of the fridge and set them out on the counter to proof.
At 7am I ran out to the corner deli for a box of eggs for the egg wash.We ran out last night.
Argh it's cold. Thank goodness for Bodegas.

At 7:30 they were ready to go into the oven.
So far everything looked right...Sort of. I wasn't sure if I would get the flaky layers, maybe I pressed to hard with the rolling pin, and maybe I didn't do enough turns. It was late last night, and I forgot to keep track.
Twenty minutes I pulled them out of the oven, and eureka! I had done it. It worked! They had the layers, I realized I had pinched the pinwheels backwards, but who cares about that. The LAYERS WERE THERE!!!!

I was so excited that something that scared me to do on my own for so long really was a success.
This year of making bread every week has really make me understand the dramatics of it all. That's how the Joy of Cooking describes yeast bread.
The great drama of the kitchen.
Irma Rombauer talks about bread being one of the oldest and most fundamental foods. She says the satisfaction of transforming flour water into bread is like shaking hands with our history. But as every baker discovers, a return to real flavor, a fulfilling joy. Amazing words from a Missouri house wife. Her cookbook is in millions of households, and probably just as many commercial kitchens. Calling yeast bread the great drama of the kitchen is so spot on and eloquently said.
How can such a simple few ingredients inspire so much fear!?Yeast (it's alive! yikes!)
Water or milk (must be warm but not too warm and not always)
Eggs (Maybe)
Salt, and sugar
So simple yet so many possibilities. I'd better get back in the kitchen and finish up the other half. I'm thinking.... Apple cinnamon filling.